Nortel Retirees Rally to Stop Wind up of Pension Plan

September 15, 2010, 3:41 PM EST

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More than 1,000 retired Nortel workers, retired and active CAW members and supporters rallied on the lawn of Queen's Park, urging the Ontario government not to wind up the Nortel pension plan.

The Nortel Retirees and Former Employees Protection Canada (NRPC) and the CAW, joined by pensioner groups and the Canadian Labour Congress, are demanding that the Ontario government not wind up the Nortel pension plan by annuity when it takes over the plan on October 1.

CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said that the government is missing the point. "What seems to be lost here and what needs to be remembered is that the money in the fund belongs to the 20,000 Nortel retirees," said Kennedy in his speech to the September 15 rally.

After Nortel became insolvent in 2009, its retirees found out that Ontario regulators had allowed their pension plan to be seriously under-funded. Recent estimates indicate that many pensioners could permanently forfeit at least 35 per cent of their monthly cheques, a loss that might get much worse if the government doesn't quickly change its rules on winding up the plans.

"You deserve the chance to recoup the losses. Enough damage has already been done, there is no need for more. We are calling on the Ontario government to keep the plan going," said Kennedy, to loud cheers and chants of "Don't wind up the plan."

"Premier McGuinty, you do have choices -don't make the wrong one.  Don't wind up the plan!"

The NRPC is proposing that the fund be transferred to a Canadian bank or a financial institution. This model would still include guarantees from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF) for Ontario service, but at lower cost to the province.

NRPC President and court-appointed representative Don Sproule said that although the NRPC has proposed a number of solutions to the provincial government, the government doesn't seem interested in listening. "We need this government to get its head out of the sand," said Sproule.

"It's time the Ontario government realized that its 30 year old laws just don't work! The original intent was to protect pensioners but in today's environment they are being penalized," said Sproule.

Brian Rutherford, president of the General Motors Salaried Retirees Association said that government is taking the side of corporations when determining how to apply pension legislation. Rutherford also encouraged all participants to contact their Members of Parliament to urge them to support a NDP-led Private Members Bill C-501, which would amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, particularly around the protection of pensions.

CLC Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff called for a national pension strategy on the part of government, which would see the doubling of the Canada Pension Plan, the creation of pension insurance in the case of bankruptcy and an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Yussuff said that our pension system is deeply flawed, leaving far too many seniors vulnerable and the government must urgently make improvements. "If they don't fix the system, we'll do it at the ballot box," said Yussuff.

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